Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Emily Mastellone-Snyder

I grew up on 100 acres in a town of 200 people in rural Massachusetts, and feel fortunate to have had the space to roam free and grow with the land. My mother is a passionate gardener, and her love of growing food and flowers clearly influenced my own love of gardening. As much as I loved where I grew up, I was also eager to see more of the world and experience life outside of my small community.

When it came time to go to college, I always thought I’d go out to California, but I instead found myself an hour and a half away from home at Skidmore College in upstate New York. It was here that I really discovered my passion for environmental issues and working with children.

For two summers in college, I volunteered in rural northern Guatemala. Here, I worked alongside an ecological park and women’s cooperative to help start a library. Inspired to learn more about Central America, I spent a semester abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico with a program studying Grassroots Development and Social Change. I spent a month in independent study looking at the effects of genetically modified corn on the social and biological diversity of Mexico. In both places, I lived with host families and had exciting, eye-opening experiences by truly immersing myself in the culture and language.

In the summer before my senior year of college, I decided it was time for me to try out life in California, so I went to work at Hidden Villa Summer Camp in Los Altos Hills, CA. What a formative summer this was! My experience there opened me up to the world of outdoor, farm, and garden-based environmental education–after that, I was hooked. My first job out of college was as a teacher naturalist at San Mateo Outdoor Education Program deep in the redwood forest in La Honda, CA. I was mesmerized the moment I arrived to live, teach, work and play there. I spent the next three years there, in awe of the redwood trees and the coast, spending every free moment teaching myself about the ecology of the land. This is also where I learned many silly and educational songs to sing and play on the guitar.

With summers off, I decided to pursue my interest in farming, and WWOOFed (volunteered) and apprenticed at farms in Alaska and in California. From there, it was clear that I loved having my hands in the dirt, and I went on to immerse myself in farming and gardening at the UCSC Farm and Garden program in Santa Cruz. During my time as a farm apprentice, I volunteered to lead some field trips with Life Lab, and after that, I had always hoped that I’d get a job there some day—and here I am! After graduating the Farm and Garden program, I started a small, part-time ecological landscaping business in Santa Cruz.

I worked a season as a naturalist at the Pigeon Point Environmental Education Program located at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero, CA. Here, I taught K-8 groups marine ecology, leading tidepooing sessions and weekly trips to visit elephant seals–as well as putting on a weekly elephant seal musical puppet show. I went on to direct the bilingual North Coast Teen Center in Davenport, CA, where I created programing for empowerment, health & wellness, and homework help for low-income teens. I also coordinated the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program (LEFDP) in Watsonvile, CA, on a 130-acre organic family farm. At LEFDP, I led farm-based field trips for school groups and ongoing programs for all ages. Favorite activities were visiting and caring for the large flocks of chickens (and chicks) and the herd of milking goats (and kids), as well as working in the fields and education garden.

One of my favorite parts of my job at Life Lab is seeing the awe and wonder in children’s faces when they try (and like!) a food for the first time, or make a connection about where their food comes from. I especially love leading children in singing songs about food, gardening, ecology, or just about anything. I have the pleasure of getting to work with great crews of motivated and creative interns and camp counselors who bring the magic of the garden alive for children!

When I’m not at work, you can find me in my garden at home, or hiking or backpacking somewhere beautiful. You might also find me in my kitchen, cooking or preserving food, or making music. 

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Tomorrow is the day! The Human Race is one of the many ways you can support Life Lab in growing healthy, inspired children. Make a donation today (or register for the race!) at www.humanracesc.org/npo/life-lab or visit the registration booth starting at 8AM tomorrow at 2300 Delaware Ave. in Santa Cruz. You don't want to miss the fun! #humanracesc, #isupportlifelab ... See MoreSee Less

2017 Human Race Walkathon and Fun Run

May 13, 2017, 8:00am - May 13, 2017, 2:00pm

Human Race Santa Cruz

Come walk, run, skip, or roll with us at the 37th Annual Human Race Walkathon and Fun Run. Enjoy delicious food, music along the 5 mile course, a people's parade, costumes and family friendly activities at the Fairy Tale Themed Village after the race. All who donate $35 or more will also receive a Human Race T-shirt. The Human Race is our community's largest giving campaign. This year, 130 Human Race teams are reaching out for your support. All you have to do to register is donate to your favorite cause then join the fun on race day. Our 2017 theme is FairyTales and all are welcome to join us in costume! REGISTER ONLINE at www.humanracesc.org or on race day starting at 8AM. The race begins at 9AM at 2300 Delaware Ave in Santa Cruz. If you can't make it you can still grant a wish by making an online donation. Volunteers Needed: Want to volunteer at the Race? We are still looking for a few more folks to make this day a success. please contact Odessa at americorps@scvolunteercenter.org

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Calling our community! We are looking to borrow a projector with a minimum of 4,000 lumens. Let us know if you have any leads, thank you! ... See MoreSee Less

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Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.

Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps

Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.

Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary

Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.

Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom

Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.